Song verse breaches Diddy name agreement

United Kingdom

In Dearlove v Combs, the High Court of England and Wales has ruled that Sean Combs, the internationally known record producer, actor and rapper, had breached an agreement relating to the use of the name Diddy by referring to himself by that name in a song released after the agreement was signed.

Richard Dearlove, a UK club disc jockey (DJ) trading and professionally known since 1992 as Diddy, started passing off proceedings in the High Court after Combs changed his professional name from P Diddy to Diddy. The High Court granted Dearlove exclusive entitlement in the United Kingdom to the name Diddy. The disputing parties subsequently entered into an agreement that specified the manner in which Combs could refer to himself. By this agreement Combs undertook:

  • not to advertise, offer, provide, or cause/procure others to advertise, offer or provide any goods and services as a remixer, producer, songwriter, recording artist and DJ under or with reference to the word 'Diddy';

  • not to pass off or attempt to pass off and/or enable and/or assist and/or cause and/or procure others to pass off or to attempt to pass off any goods and services as those of or being connected or associated with Dearlove; and

  • to remove from the United Kingdom all materials or articles in his possession, custody, power or control which would contravene the foregoing undertaking.

Combs's professional name P Diddy was not affected by this undertaking.

Dearlove subsequently brought new proceedings before the High Court, claiming that Combs had breached the agreement by advertising himself as Diddy in "The Future", a track on the album "Press Play".

The court upheld the claim, finding that the second verse of the song refers to Combs as 'Diddy' as he invites the listener to "mainline this new Diddy heroin". Combs also expressly:

  • refers to iTunes and asks the listener to "download me in every resident";

  • refers to his CD as "my CD's in 3-D holograms"; and

  • refers to his shows with the words "the live show's a hard act to follow man".

The court saw this as straightforward advertisement by Combs of his CD, his songs which can be downloaded from iTunes and his live shows, all under and by reference to the word 'Diddy'. The listener will understand that he or she is being encouraged to buy the "Press Play" CD, to download the songs and that the live show is an event well worth attending. This advertising is in breach of the settlement agreement.

The court ordered a full trial on whether there had been further breaches of the agreement after the court found that the use of the name Diddy on the MySpace and YouTube websites was a breach, but was unable to decide whether Combs had any control over the content.

Jeremy Phillips, IP Consultant to Slaughter and May, London

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